Our bodies weather a lot of challenges, from dry winter skin to shaving irritation to foot calluses. But not everybody has the time or money to get expensive spa treatments on a regular basis. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to create an easy regimen at home that treats your body from head to toe. Find out how to get smooth, soft skin through exfoliation, body brushing, shaving and more, in this chapter of our Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook.
BODY & SPA
“Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live.” - Jim Rohn
If eyes are the windows to the soul, our bodies are the road maps. From body acne to cellulite to cracked feet, our bodies reveal where we’re overworked, aging or simply in need of some TLC. Find out about luxurious treatments at the spa or at home, plus questions and answers on shaving, cellulite treatment and foot care.
Spa treatments & DIY
» Q: How do professionals get my skin ready for an extraction?
A: Skincare specialists usually steam and cleanse the skin. Heat helps to open pores and soften blackheads, making extractions easier. Make sure your esthetician wears gloves while performing extractions to avoid introducing bacteria into the pores. Although extractions aren’t exactly pleasant, they shouldn’t hurt. Let your esthetician know if you feel pain.
» Q: What is a body wrap?
A: Body wraps treat skin all over the body. There are many types, but most aim to eliminate toxins and tighten skin. The esthetician typically applies a mask of natural ingredients (e.g., mud, seaweed) and then wraps the body in tight-fitting material (such as elastic clothes or bandages).
» Q: I’ve heard that performing extractions at home is a big no-no, even with the proper tools. How come?
A: Experts advise against at-home extractions, because many patients apply too much pressure, which can force the blockage deeper into the skin and cause additional infection or blemishes. If you’re going to perform an extraction on your own, forgo the tools and instead, just cover each index finger with a tissue and gently press on either side of the pore.
» Q: What is body brushing, and is it really good for the skin?
A: Body brushing, also known as dry brushing, is said to slough off dead skin cells, stimulate circulation and boost dull skin. The practice requires a natural bristle body brush or mitt, ideally with stiff bristles to increase stimulation. Prior to your shower, sweep the brush over your entire body, starting at the feet and moving upward and using circular motions for larger areas of the body like the buttocks and chest. As a bonus, try applying organic body oil after brushing. According to WebMD, this not only softens skin, but can relieve muscle tension, too.
» Q: Can I make my own massage oil?
A: Absolutely! Massage oils are moisturizing to your skin and prevent irritation or friction during a massage. Try a vegetable-based oil that doesn’t have a strong scent. A great choice is almond oil or grapeseed oil. Then, if you want, include drops of relaxing essential oils, like lavender, to enhance the benefits. Make sure to use essential oils that are meant to be applied to the skin rather than just used as fragrance.
» Q: What's the difference between mechanical and chemical exfoliation?
A: Mechanical exfoliation involves the use of scrubs that clear away dead skin cells by way of beads, crystals such as magnesium oxide or even baking soda (found in some types of microdermabrasion creams). Mechanical exfoliants have a "sand paper" effect. Chemical exfoliation involves the use of ingredients which clear away dead skin cells and even out skin imperfections by "peeling" the skin with compounds such as the alpha hydroxy acids.
» Q: Can I use a body scrub to exfoliate my face?
A: Definitely avoid using a body scrub for your face, because it’s too harsh and abrasive, according to About’s spa guide Anitra Brown. Body scrubs are designed for the thicker, rougher skin of the body.
» Q: Why is it necessary to use products designed specifically for the face and body?
A: This is because facial products are simply not rich or thick enough to moisturize the body, while products made for the body are too thick for your face and can cause greasiness and clog pores. Also, some body products are too harsh, can strip the face of moisture and can cause irritation.
Shaving & hair removal
» Q: What is an ingrown hair?
A: An ingrown hair happens when a shaved hair gets trapped inside the follicle or grows into the skin. There are many products on the market that help treat ingrown hairs. Or you can coax the hair out with a pair of tweezers.
» Q: Is there a special technique for shaving my bikini line?
A: The skin on your bikini area is more sensitive, so take your time when shaving. If the hair has grown out, use scissors to trim before you shave. After you shave, leave your underwear off for a few minutes, because the elastic bands could irritate the skin.
» Q: What is the best way to shave my beard?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the best way to shave is by doing the following: Thoroughly wet your face, shave in the direction that hair grows and avoid going over the same area repeatedly. For the specifics on getting the closest, most comfortable shave, see our complete shaving guide here.
» Q. How can I prevent irritation when shaving?
A: First, allow your skin to soften in the shower or bath for a few minutes before you begin shaving, or apply a wet washcloth to the area before you shave. Second, use a moisturizing shave gel to prevent razor burn, nicks and cuts.
» Q: Will shaving make my hair grow back coarser?
A: No, there’s actually no evidence that shaving makes your hair grow back thicker or coarser.
» Q: What are some at-home hair removal techniques I can try besides shaving?
A: If you don’t want to abandon shaving altogether, try an electric razor. It’s gentler on the skin, so it’s great for anyone with sensitive skin. Other at-home options include depilatories and waxing. A depilatory is a foam that contains chemicals that remove the hair. Before you use depilatories, be sure to test a patch of skin. Waxing can get messy, so wax in small sections.
» Q: I’m worried about the pain of waxing. What if I can’t stand it?
A: Pain factor varies depending on the type of wax. Ask your esthetician to try different types of waxes until you find one that causes the least pain. Keep in mind that after repeated waxing sessions, hair will grow back finer, resulting in easier removal with less pain. You can also apply ice to numb skin before waxing, pull skin taut and remove hair in a quick motion. Finally, taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen about an hour before waxing can help.
» Q: I have sensitive skin, so can I still use a depilatory cream on my face?
A: Yes, but look for a cream that’s designed for sensitive skin. Always do a patch test on another area of the body first to ensure you don’t have a reaction. Never leave the cream on any longer than the directions recommend.
» Q: What is cellulite?
A: Cellulite is a combination of excess fat in an area with uneven dermis above it, which leads to a lumpy or bumpy skin surface texture.
» Q: What are some of the causes of cellulite?
A: A variety of factors can contribute to cellulite including poor circulation, genetic predisposition, hormonal changes, crash diets and lack of exercise.
» Q: What are some good products that reduce cellulite?
A: Bliss, Murad, L'Occitane and Pevonia all offer good products specifically formulated for cellulite.
» Q: Are there any ways to minimize the appearance of cellulite in my thighs?
A: You can try cellulite creams and gels. There are also invasive treatments that are performed by a cosmetic dermatologist or plastic surgeon. Exercise might also minimize cellulite.
» Q: Are there specific exercises I can do to target cellulite?
A: According to MSNBC, a combination of aerobic activity and weight training can have a minimizing effect on cellulite. You can also reduce the appearance of cellulite by increasing circulation in targeted areas — like the butt and thighs — with exercises such as sprints, stair-running, spinning and circuit training.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
» Q: How can I get my feet in tip-top shape for flip-flops?
A: It doesn’t take much to get your feet soft and smooth. To remove rough skin, smear a scrub with exfoliating beads on a good quality foot file, and apply in the shower. After your shower, smooth on a cream with alpha hydroxy acids to seal in moisture. Then, apply a bright nail polish like cherry red, poppy orange or hot pink. To learn more about getting summer-ready feet, see here.
» Q: What’s an inexpensive way to hydrate cracked, rough feet?
A: To hydrate even the roughest feet, you’ll just need two inexpensive supplies: petroleum jelly and cotton socks. Coat your feet in petroleum jelly in the evening. Then, seal in the moisture by putting on your socks and leaving them on while you sleep. Remember to regularly exfoliate your feet, because that helps your cream sink into the skin.
» Q: What’s a good way to recreate a spa experience for my feet?
A: You can create a relaxing, spa-like retreat for your feet in several simple steps. Before you begin, seek a quiet space, light several fresh-scented candles and turn on your favorite relaxing music. To start pampering your feet, fill a small basin with water and pour in some Dead Sea salts or Epsom salts; then soak for several minutes. Next, exfoliate with a gentle foot scrub, which you can buy at any drugstore. Finish off by applying a rich cream to your feet and giving them a much-deserved massage.
» Q: How can I get rid of stubborn calluses?
A: You can use a pumice stone or foot file to rub away dead skin, or try a topical treatment like SpaRitual Let It Go Callus Remover . Heavy-duty foot scrubs can also help, like Pevonia Phytopedic Silky Foot Peel. For particularly difficult calluses, treat your feet to a pedicure where the specialist can shave away your dead skin.
Need some pampering, or looking for a way to banish body acne, cellulite or calluses? Keep this guide accessible to maintain smooth, healthy skin from head to toe.
Stay tuned for more installments of our complete Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook.
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook – Part 4: Pregnancy, Babies & Kids
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook – Part 3: Anti-Aging
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook – Part 2: Acne
Skincare & Beauty FAQ Handbook - Part 1: Skin Type & Seasonal Skincare